British homeopathy funding is "bad medicine": panel

Mon Feb 22, 2010 6:45am EST
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should end its state funding for homeopathic treatments because they are "scientifically implausible" and work no better than placebos, an influential parliamentary panel said on Monday.

The Science and Technology committee said homeopathic products are not medicines and should no longer be licensed by medicines regulators.

Homeopathy producers should not be allowed to make medical claims on product labels without evidence they work, it added.

The committee accused the government of sending out mixed messages about homeopathic remedies by saying that while there is no evidence to back them, they can still be paid for by Britain's public National Health Service (NHS).

"It sets an unfortunate precedent for the department of health to consider that the existence of a community which believes that homeopathy works is 'evidence' enough to continue spending public money on it," committee chairman Phil Willis said in a statement. "This also sends out a confused message, and has potentially harmful consequences."

An election is due in Britain later this year and political leaders are under pressure to come up with any saving they can to bring down the country's ballooning public deficit.

Ministers estimate the NHS spends around 152,000 pounds ($235,000) -- a tiny fraction of its around 100 billion pound budget -- on homeopathic remedies each year.

In its report on homeopathy, the committee agreed with the government that evidence shows homeopathy is not efficacious -- meaning it works no better than a placebo, or dummy pill.   Continued...